Today’s guest post is by Vince Cipollone, Corporate Development Executive at IBM and co-lead for IBM’s UK EAGLE business resource group.
My partner and I have been together for nearly 11 years. We’re both professionals – me in mergers and acquisitions, my partner in occupational psychology. We’re in a loving civil partnership (coming up to 8 years), and we have two wonderful boys, ages 14 and 15. They get along with each other far better than either my partner or I ever got along with our brothers.
In the early days of our relationship, we took the boys – then aged 6 and 7 – on a caravan holiday in Devon, along the English seaside. The boys loved it, and they made great friends with nearly all the other kids around. In fact, we ended up hosting at least half a dozen other children at our site on a regular basis – laughing, running around and playing tag. It seemed ideal.
So imagine the horror when my partner and I were woken up in the middle of one of the final nights of our holiday to our caravan shaking. It didn’t take us long to realise what was happening – a group of ‘blokes’ were trying to push our caravan over and yelling homophobic slurs. This continued for about 15 minutes while our children (thankfully) remained sleeping.
Why did this happen? We had done nothing wrong. In fact, one could argue we had enhanced the experiences of those other children in the caravan park. The reality was we just happened to be a gay couple. As a result, we were targeted and put in a potentially dangerous situation for me, my partner and our children.
Fortunately, this story didn’t end in tragedy. The gang eventually stopped (just before we called the police), and we were able to finally calm ourselves down. But this experience remains embedded in our psyches – as a result, we almost never hold hands in public like other loving couples do.
So when I learned of Andy’s Holding Hands 4 Equality initiative, it immediately struck a chord deep inside and made me question why, in the thousands of photos from over 10 years with my partner, I could not find one of us holding hands in public. I felt compelled to act. And I realized that I was actually in a position to do something meaningful.
As the co-lead for IBM’s UK EAGLE community (Employee Alliance for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Empowerment), I reached out to others on our Steering Committee, as well as our global LGBT programme manager, with an idea. “Let’s take this global and ask our extended LGBT and Straight Ally communities around the world to contribute Holding Hands photos.”
And so it began. The pictures started coming in from Brazil to Canada, from Japan to China and across Europe. The results to be debuted in a short video on IDAHOBiT day.
I’m personally grateful to Andy and his passion on this issue – I now have nearly a dozen photos of my partner and me holding hands across London, taken by our two boys, which I will forever cherish with pride. I believe that Holding Hands 4 Equality is an amazing concept, and I really hope that others do, too, by contributing their own photos. For in the end, aren’t we all human beings who deserve to live in a world without fear of being themselves and having affection for another human being?
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